Thursday, July 28, 2011

In Which Lightning Occurs

Dear companions around the world and on other planets as applicable,

Be it ever so humble, there is no place like a hotel room near where my husband is stationed.

We have regular storms here, electrical storms with magnificent displays of crackling lightning and chest-thrumming thunder.  One evening I sat in the main hotel lobby (my hotel is in an annex building, a 15-minute walk away from the main building).  I was eating sugar babies and melting them off my teeth with hot coffee, a satisfactory combination I am sure my dentist would definitely approve of.  I kicked back and watched the show over Lake Michigan - it surely rivaled the recent fireworks display we had here on the 4th of July!  Huge bolts ripped from the clouds and streaked their way down to the churning steel-gray waters.  My eyes darted from side to side trying to catch all the beauty at once; the TV on the other side of the room was drowned out by thunder, with would begin with a smattering like drums and then explode into a rolling boom. 

My husband sent me a text message and suggested I head back to my hotel room for the evening, as tornado warnings had been issued for the area.  On my way home, I paused near a large field and looked back at the clouds, the lighting illuminating them explosively every few seconds.  Shortly after I returned to my room, a tornado touched down in that field.

About two weeks later, we had been experiencing a solid fortnight of glorious weather - temperatures soared into the hundreds, humidity was in the nineties, and everybody lay about in a general state of malaise.  I awoke early in the morning with the intention of going to Dunkin' Donuts to read and study for several hours, and then head over to the antique mall to examine old cooking equipment.

Little did I know, my plans were not to unfold in this manner.

I arrived at good ol' Dunkin' around 0700.  The weather was balmy - it had cooled down a little - and there was not a cloud in the sky.  The sun shone benevolently.  I parked a good distance away from the donut shop so I could enjoy the walk to and from; how foolish this was of me, in retrospect!

I headed into the shop and settled my books on a table and availed myself of a donut and iced coffee.  I studied, flipped pages, pondered, and nibbled away my donut for almost an hour.  I was sitting in the warm glow of the sun - toasting like a cat on the carpet, an African violet steaming in a greenhouse.  "But how lovely," you cry!  As we used to say when we were youngsters, "little did I know..."  As I bent over my page, I frowned.  It seemed to me that it had just grown darker.  Of a sudden, my page was engulfed in shadow and I was in chill.  I looked up - the walls of Dunkin' Donuts were entirely glass, except for behind the counter.  I had a full view of the parking lot outside, the fields beyond, and the sky.  Rolling overhead like a smothering cloak of doom was a thick, roiling black mass of clouds.  They swept over the donut shop and out over the sky until the blue was entirely eaten up.  It was as dark as dusk. 

I looked across the room - there were three baristas, two girls and a boy.  Another customer sat at a table, sipping his coffee and looking outside.  The door opened and a man walked in.  He hurriedly ordered a coffee and stuffed his change back in his pocket.  Taking the cup and marching briskly out, he tossed over his shoulder: "There's a real storm comin'."

The bell jangled as the door closed, and the donut shop fell quiet.  Then the pressure dropped and in an instant, the air was sucked out of the room and my ears were ringing with a deafening silence.  Here it comes, I thought.  And instantly, all at once, the storm struck!  Rain slashed savagely at the windows, the trees tore and shook in spasms as the wind stripped them of branches and leaves.  Lighting burst into action, snaking down and striking the parking lot around us repeatedly, continuously.  Billows of water rolled across the pavement in overflowing washes, and the glass doors began to swing and crash.  The male barista and the customer ran to hold the door closed, their combined weight leaning  back as they held the push-bar. 

The power flickered, hesitated, and then finally went out altogether.  The male barista screamed, and the girls laughed at him.  Alarms started ringing and beeping from various implements behind the counter; the windows shuddered and the building groaned as the wind swept around and around  the building.  Outside, we would later learn, power lines and trees were coming down with alarming rapidity, and when I would finally leave over two hours later, I would have to search out several roads before finding one that I could safely drive home.  A few people raced across the parking lot from their cars in to the safety of buildings. 

The apex of the storm did not last long - less than half an hour - and then it died down to a steady downpour, punctuated by brilliant flashes of lightning.  When I eventually arrived back home, I found the power out and trees, branches, and miscellaneous construction signs scattered about.  For some thousands in the area, it was over a week before the power came back on. 

All this being said, it's pretty quiet out here and we go to the beach quite often.

Until next time,

Mrs H
twitter.com/_mrs_h

1 comment:

  1. It reminds me of the Inauguration Day Storm of 1993.
    As I watched videos of the aftermath of the storm I was relieved you made it home safely.

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